The ABCs of marinades - how to make your summer dishes taste fantastic
Say the word BBQ, and marinades immediately jump to mind. Nothing is more natural than soaking your favourite piece of meat before putting it on the grill. If you follow a few basic rules of making good marinades, it is easy and fun to try new combinations. Read on for how to make great marinades, and a few recipe suggestions from Robert and Alexis.
Marinades have many benefits. The first thing to understand is why we use them, and what they do.
Enhance the taste
Macerating the proteins in food by soaking it in liquid brings out the taste. For example, using flavours such as rosemary, bay leaves or preserved lemon gives a bit of zest to tender and rather neutral meats, like chicken or filet mignon.
Tenderize the meat
The goal of a marinade is to soften tougher meats, such as hanger steak or lamb. For these types of meats, use acid-based ingredients, like red wine, lemon, balsamic vinegar or tomato paste.
Marinating properly: it’s all about balance and timing
A successful marinade has three essential elements to balance it: an acid ingredient (lemon or vinegar, for example), a fatty substance (such as olive oil or canola oil), and an aromatic ingredient (like herbs or curry).
The big question many people ask is: How long do I marinate? The answer depends on what you are cooking – meat, fish, or poultry – and how tender it is. See the chart below for marinating times:
— Fish and seafood: 1 – 2 hours
— Poultry: 4 – 6 hours
— Red meat: 12 – 24 hours
* The length of time also depends on the cut of meat. For example, 12 hours is enough for filet mignon, but not for flank steak. At Robert Alexis Caterer, we marinate flank steaks for 72 hours!
Marinating red meat: popular classics
When you’re in the mood for red meat, sometimes simple is better. Let the high quality of the meat speak for itself, and the taste will melt in your mouth.
CLASSIC PROVENÇAL MARINADE
Lemon zest, parsley, capers, garlic, olive oil, and herbes de Provence
CLASSIC RED WINE MARINADE
Red wine, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, canola oil, bay leaves, and fresh thyme
Marinating poultry: go international
As poultry is a tender meat with a delicate taste, marinating is your opportunity to jazz it up a little. Chicken is very popular in many countries, bringing with it a diversity of rich and exciting flavours. Here are a few examples:
Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh thyme
Chicken broth, soya sauce, sake or white wine, mirin, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and green onion. Put all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low heat until the sauce thickens. Use half of the sauce to marinate the meat, and keep the other half for basting while cooking.
Olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves
Marinating fish and seafood: yes, you can!
We often hesitate before putting a beautiful piece of fish into a marinade, but it does work! Even though fish is tender and delicate, it only takes a moment to bring out the intricacies of its flavors in all their glory. Whether simple or sophisticated, marinades for fish are always delicious.
DIJON-STYLE SALMON MARINADE
Dijon mustard, olive oil, maple syrup, and dill
MARINADE FOR SALMON (a specialty from Robert)
Soya sauce, olive oil, red curry paste, fresh ginger, and grilled onion. Tip for grilled onions: mince and sauté on high heat until golden.
MARINADE FOR TUNE (a specialty from Alexis)
Soya sauce, yuzu juice, mirin, fresh jalapenos, and fresh garlic
MARINADE FOR WHITE FISH
White fish is best cooked simply, with salt and pepper. Serve with a “sauce vierge”, or virgin sauce, made from olive oil, chopped cherry tomatoes, parsley, capers and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Chef's tip: roasted garlic
At Robert-Alexis Traiteur, we really like to use roasted garlic in our marinades and vegetable dips. The advantages are multiple: roasted garlic is much less harsh on the digestion than fresh garlic and gives less strong breath, the taste is sweeter (and so much tastier) and conservation is easier.
THE ROASTED GARLIC METHOD
Arrange a few heads of garlic in a baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil, add thyme, peppercorns and herbs of your choice. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°C for 1 hour. Then remove each clove of garlic and press on them to extract the flesh.
We advise to use gloves because the smell of garlic on the skin permeates for several days. You can produce a large batch of roasted garlic and store in small jars in the freezer.
Marinade for grilled octopus
Grilled octopus is becoming increasingly popular as a delicious and original dish – all good reasons to include it on your summer menu. Follow Alexis’ sure-fire recipe and you’re guaranteed success.
Clean the octopus and remove its beak. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask the fishmonger to do it.
Place the octopus in a court bouillon made of water, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, pepper and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for an hour and a half. Be very careful to maintain a low heat, it must not come to a rolling boil. Then turn off the heat and let it cool in the broth for 30 minutes.
Marinate the octopus in a mixture of olive oil, paprika, garlic, lemon zest and thyme right before grilling.
To grill, use a cooking mat, or oil the grill well to prevent the skin from sticking. Serve the octopus with a Romesco sauce or crème fraîche with lemon.
Now that you know the secrets of marinades, go ahead – sprinkle, mix, and baste to your heart’s content! While your loved ones and guests will still tell you how much they like your comforting ketchup marinade, they will absolutely love this new range of flavours – not to mention your impressive new cooking skills. So after you dip your dinner in marinade, it will be your turn to take a dip – in the pool!